The smallest of tangible conventional achievements are celebrated — getting good grades, cracking college, jumping on a new job, pacing to a promotion, etc.
These milestones of a “normal” life are placed under harsh scrutiny, expected to be realized by 25. This creation of a pleasingly “ordinary” life is commemorated — and for good reasons, mostly. Because achieving even this normality, this ordinary-everyday is not easy. It is difficult to garner, all the more challenging to maintain & pacify on top of one another in a neat list.
But besides these external rewards, tangible trophies, there is also the internal honor, the intangible profit.
This is the coming together of a person done by quarter-life-crisis; this is the breaking down and the reinstalling of personhood. The larger personality creation is done repeatedly, every day — in forming habits, in saying the courageous “no,” in good riddance of outgrown platitudes.
Disclaimer: I know that the visible prizes and invisible progress are not neatly separated but intermingled into an untidy marriage. The most complicated of words or advances of tech cannot comb them apart. Because they are (and will always be) a mish-mash puzzle of how much one influences another. Take an example — Do I not care what other people think because I mostly get the external validation? Or do I get external validation because I don’t care what other people think? I can never unscramble this. The tangible and intangible progress-es will always be a blended scarlet cloth.
Disclaimer 2: When I say I want to celebrate the conventional emotional achievements, I don’t claim for enlightenment, or spirituality, or faith. These are unconventional emotional feats (the “Harvards” of them, if I may) that I don’t have the authority to speak for. I want to advocate for the “community colleges” achievements because that is what I have devoured.
What achievements are you talking about?
These are the I-finally-don’t-care-what-people-think achievements. This is the acknowledgment of the I-got-the-courage-to-be-myself trophy. This is the celebration of the emotional toil at I-resolved-my-commitment-issues island. These are the common emotional levels sprouting in you and me, and they all deserve to be housed in a convocation ceremony. Even this dismantling and rebuilding of ourselves is not far from “what everybody does,” nothing unique, and yet as difficult as finishing college, gaining a “normal” life.
Why aren’t there convocation ceremonies on overcoming traumas?
Maybe there are no loud celebrations of emotional achievements because there is no exam that you and I can pass to yell, “I finally know how to fight with someone I love!” There are no diplomas handed out for “Congratulations! You are now building a life where you are comfortable in disappointing others.” No graduate college offers a degree in “Unlearning faulty parenting.”
Disclaimer 3: All of this healing isn’t linear, I know. But neither are conventional achievements (aren’t people graduating at 40 to change career paths, still celebrating what they also celebrated at 21?), yet they are celebrated despite their zig-zag pathway.
Maybe this is also why you and I often forget to tally our conventional emotional normality — despite living in the external upper-class normal-hood.
What the fuck to do then?
Maybe you and I host a party to celebrate how I finally converted jealousy to admiration. Maybe I’ll gift my friend something to honor her letting go of resentment. I can perhaps party my way out of people-pleasing and lay a medal to mark it.
If you and I give this becoming a name, then maybe it becomes commonplace. Maybe then this emotional normality will be something the crowd strives to achieve.
Finally, maybe I’ll then be able to distribute the cards for mistrusting emotional normality, this conventional emotional laurel, and weave a road of my own illumination.
Want in on this party?
Previously Published on Medium